Accrual of Cause of Action – § 6-5-482, Ala. Code 1975

Ex parte Mobile Infirmary Association, etc., [Ms. 1200200, Sept. 10, 2021] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2021). The Court (Bryan, J.; Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Shaw, Wise, Sellers, and Mitchell, JJ., concur; Mendheim and Stewart, JJ., dissent) issues a writ of mandamus to the Mobile Circuit Court directing dismissal of McBride’s medical malpractice claims against the Mobile Infirmary and J. L. Bedsole Rotary Rehabilitation Hospital. The Court concludes that from the face of the complaint McBride’s claims were clearly barred by the 2-year statute of limitations in § 6-5-482(a).

According to McBride’s complaint, he was discharged “‘[o]n June 20, 2018, ... with pressure ulcers present on both his left and right heels. [McBride]’s left heel pressure ulcer was recorded as unstageable with dark gray eschar and erythema and edema surrounding the wound.’ His allegation is that, but for the negligent and wanton failure by the defendants to provide him with adequate care while he was a patient, he would not have suffered the injuries referenced in his complaint.” Ms. **9-10. McBride argued that his complaint was not barred because it was filed within 2 years of July 23, 2018, when McBride’s left leg was amputated below the knee.

The Court first notes that “‘[a] cause of action ‘accrues’ under § 6-5-482 when the act complained of results in legal injury to the plaintiff. Grabert v. Lightfoot, 571 So. 2d 293, 294 (Ala. 1990); Colburn v. Wilson, 570 So. 2d 652, 654 (Ala. 1990). The statutory limitations period begins to run whether or not the full amount of damages is apparent at the time of the first legal injury.’” Ms. *8, quoting Mobile Infirmary v. Delchamps, 642 So. 2d 954, 958 (Ala. 1994). The Court concludes “it is clear that he commenced this action more than two years after the alleged negligence and wantonness that caused the ‘pressure ulcers ... on both his left and right heels’ and ‘the dark gray eschar and erythema and edema surrounding the’ left-heel pressure ulcer.” Ms. *10.

The Court holds “[b]ecause McBride’s injuries, however slight, ultimately resulting in the need for the amputation were already present when he was discharged from Rotary Rehab on June 20, 2018, … [t]he eventual need for an amputation … gives no new cause of action.” Ms. **15-16 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

Emphasizing the 12(b)(6) standard of review and the limited availability of mandamus review of the denial of a motion to dismiss, Justice Mendheim’s dissent, joined by Justice Stewart, argues

[O]n the face of the complaint, McBride’s action seeking damages for his leg-amputation injury is not barred by the applicable statute of limitations. To conclude otherwise, the main opinion explores whether that alleged injury is, in fact, the first injury, and, to determine that, it makes assumptions about the specific cause of the leg-amputation injury. That analysis fails to view the allegations in McBride’s complaint most strongly in his favor, and it permits mandamus relief even though it is not clear from the face of the complaint that the defendant was entitled to a dismissal.

Ms. **31-32 (internal quotation marks omitted).

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